How to Choose the Best Camping Tent

Camping Tent 1

By Mitra Cazaubon

Whether you are going hiking, camping or just enjoying a day outdoors; a tent is a must have. But before you go buying the latest tent, there are some important tips you need to know. In this article, we will look at the features you need to be mindful of when buying a sturdy, reliable camping tent.

Before we go into the features, make a list of the activities you want your tent for, the environment you will most likely encounter and whether you are going to be backpacking or driving to an established campsite.

#1 Camping Tent Size/Capacity

Camping Tent 3First, establish whether you will be camping or glamping. Decide on how many persons you want to house in your camping tent. A comfortable square footage for camping is between 16 to 25 square feet, which includes space for gear. Another aspect of the tent size you should consider is sitting and standing room. You should have enough room to at least sit in your tent. Depending on what type of camping (survival or backpacking) standing room may not be necessary.

#2 Shape and Design

Camping Tent 2Tents come in all shapes and sizes, literally. A-frame, umbrella, and dome are the typical tent shapes. Umbrella tents make great family tents since they have standing room. A-frames are simple tents to set up but are not very popular these days. The dome and umbrella designs are the more standard tent shapes. For light weight camping or hiking, I would recommend a bivy tent which usually has one to three tent poles and uses stakes to keep it stable. They are small and can weight under 5lbs.

Camping Tent 4If light weight is your top priority, this is a great shelter. The dome shape tent is a better choice for everyday camping and glamping. If you will be in a windy environment be sure that you have an aerodynamic design, sturdy tent stakes, and poles.

#3 Tent Fabric

The recommended tent fabric is one that let’s air through but not moisture. Breathable nylon and polyester do just that, but the water resistance depends on the coating the manufacturer applies. Canvas is the best waterproof tent material for long term camping on established drive to camp sites. But they are heavy and usually require help to set up.

Camping Tent 5

Acrylic, polyurethane or silicone are the most popular coatings used on tent fabrics. Tents coated with acrylic are cheaper since it’s a thin layer applied to one side of the fabric. They may be waterproof when new but after some use the thin layer tends to break around to seams. Acrylic coats tend to look glossy compared to the polyurethane which is a thicker layer than the acrylic coating and is applied to the inside of the tent fabric, unlike the acrylic. The polyurethane-coated tents are more expensive than the acrylic as a result, yet in rainy conditions the fabric gets soaked since the polyurethane seal is on the inside. Thus, these camping tents take longer to dry.

Polyurethane lasts longer than the acrylic-coated tent since the seal is on the inside where it protects from abrasions and the elements. If this is where your budget reaches a good rainfly can solve this problem. On the other hand, silicone is rated as the best not only because it is more flexible than the others but also because it applies to both the inside and outside of the tent. Silicone coated tents are more expensive than the previously listed coats.

The material for your tent floor should be durable, and the seam connecting the floor to the walls should be at least 4 inches above the ground to avoid water seeping inside. Ensure that your rainfly overlaps the seam to make sure water doesn’t drip inside the tent.

#4 Tent Poles and Stakes

Camping Tent 6Aluminium and fibreglass are the most common tent poles you will find. Aluminium has replaced fibreglass in most tents since they are lightweight and are strong considering their size. Fibreglass would need to be much thicker to hold the same amount of weight as the aluminium poles. One reason I wouldn’t recommend fibreglass is because it shatters when it breaks making it a bad choice for freezing conditions since this can make a hole in your tent. Fibreglass poles are also harder to repair when damaged.

Camping Tent 7Pay attention to how your tent poles are attached to your tent. Are they clipped on or do you have to pass them through loops? Tents which have clips on the outside to hook the tent poles make for easier setup. Poles linked with elastic code can help prevent you from losing your tent rods since they hold together.

Stakes should be made of durable material to avoid bending when anchoring your tent to the ground.

#5 Ventilation

A tent needs to allow for proper airflow in humid and/or hot conditions. Bug netting for doors and windows allow for airflow without bugs getting in.

I recommend you get a camping tent with windows/doors on opposite sides to allow for proper airflow.

#6 Vestibule

A vestibule is a porch for the gear you don’t want inside your tent but intend to keep out of the elements such as muddy shoes, wet socks, and clothing. A vestibule without floor can save on weight. It is usually an extension of the rainfly over the door.

#7 Rainfly

Ensure your rainfly doesn’t make contact with your tent when setup. It is a good practice to prevent water from seeping into your tent in case your seams aren’t sealed properly.

#8 Weight

The weight of a bag packing camping tent should be no more than 6 pounds. You need to consider the weight of the other items you will be carrying.

#9 Cost

If the price is not an issue the best camping tent around is the 4 season tents. As the name suggests, they are designed for all seasons and tend to be more durable.

My principle for outdoor gear is “Better to cry once”. I prefer spending money once to have reliable gear rather than inferior gear that fails me when I need it most.

You don’t need to break the bank to buy a tent. Depending on your activities and how often you plan on using the tent you can spend under $200 for a good tent. If hiking and camping are major parts of your life, then save up for a reliable tent.

Important tips

1)    Allow your tent to dry before folding it away.

2)    Placing a tarp or ground cover before putting your tent up helps keep it clean when folding and can also protect from abrasions.

3)    Practice setting up your tent at home. Check the colour-coding instructions to make setup easier.

4)    Visit outdoor trade shows to get a feel for the different camping tent variations. You can also ask a friend to check out his/her tent for you to understand what tent is best for you.


A camping tent is a necessary shelter for any outdoor activity. Go through the features that are important to you based on your environment and needs.

Multiple Contributor | Website

Mitra Cazaubon is a nature-loving, free-spirited explorer from the small island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean.  You will have her energized with the mention of camping or sustainable living.

When she isn’t blogging about her adventures she is writing and giving relationship advice. Her soon-to-be-open blog will feature thought-provoking philosophies and her journey to finding true happiness.

She is married to the love of her life, a survivalist, and they spend most of their time gardening in their off-grid home. The remainder of their time is spent keeping up with their active son.

16 thoughts on “How to Choose the Best Camping Tent

  • September 20, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Fantastic and so helpful post because it’s not easy to choose a good tent. There are so many dependencies you should consider. It largely depends on the places where we want to camp. For me, the weight, ease of setting up, and strength of the tent are for me the most significant factors I think before I buy a tent.

  • September 19, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Yeah after buying about 3 to 4 tents I realise how important it is to have a good tent for camping. It makes so much of difference and makes camping so comfortable. My biggest issue is I am a bit claustophobic so I generally go for a tent that is suitable for 3 persons as I have a bit of room inside. But interesting to know that we need to consider so many aspects before choosing a good tent.

  • September 19, 2020 at 2:46 am

    “Better to cry once.” I like it. My family and I like going camping, so I know the tents are not cheap. I will probably do a backpacking trip in the future, so this article will help me in buying a one person tent. I got all the information needed.

  • September 18, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    This post is great. I do not understand so much about tents, I only had one in my life very long time ago but lately I have been wanting to do some more nature traveling. This gives me really a more clear ideal on what I should purchase.

  • September 18, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    This is very timely. My husband and I have been discussing going camping some time to have a get away from the city. I”ll look into these kind of tents a little more. Currently, thinking a 3-season or 4-season one may be the way to go (even if they cost a bit more).

    Thanks for sharing this post. Super useful information, all in one place.

  • September 18, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    I wish I had a guide like this when I was first starting with myoutdoor adventures. I would have avoided that one disaster where my tent turned into a lake on a rainy night.

    However I would like to add another point and that is researching how many steps it takes to put them up. Sometimes weather won’t allow you to be there in the cold, rain, snow or even worse, strong wind, forever trying to put it up. Luckily, we now have tons of platforms with reviews and videos.

  • September 17, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    I must admit my camping tent probably looks like an RV. But it was interesting to read all the things you need to consider when buying a tent. I love that there are all kinds of additions to address things like extra storage and rain protection. Practicing at home to put the tent up sounds like a great way to be faster. Especially good if you arrive late in the day or in bad weather.

  • September 17, 2020 at 8:49 am

    Very well written guide. Can’t agree more on “better to cry once”. I tried to cut corners and had a miserable night. Glad it came with a return policy.

  • September 16, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    We’ve been on the lookout for a new tent for quite some time now! We have a small, backpacking one, and then we have a big 10 person family one. They were on the whim type buys, and honestly, I wish I would’ve taken my time to research before we invested in them. There are so many things to consider, like you mention, height, material, breathability, weight, costs. So I’m definitely glad we found this post before choosing another tent! We’re thinking of something that’s for 4 people, light weight, super durable, and we still have to order a tarp and we definitely have to work on cleaning it better! Thank you for such an informative post!

  • June 16, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    I haven’t been tent camping in a long time. It really makes a difference in picking the right tent, so you don’t end up miserable when you go camping!

  • March 22, 2019 at 8:19 am

    I love the two people tents, are comfy even for one. THe best are those which open automatically, aww I love them. Hard to fix after but get to get used to it. THanks for a great list of tips, that’s helpful.

  • September 16, 2018 at 10:02 am

    This is such an informative guide regarding tents! I had gone camping last year, and I had not really taken time to check if the tent I was carrying was comfortable or does it have proper ventilation. Thanks for jotting down all the essential pointers to keep in mind regarding the tent. This is really gonna help. Saving it for my future reference. 🙂

  • September 3, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    I agree with all the points you have mentioned here. I always prefer 3 season tents. They are comfortable and cool.

  • May 2, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing nice information with us. i like your post and all you share with us is uptodate and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job.

  • May 1, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    This is one extensive guide! Thank you, Nicole 🙂

    • May 1, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you very much Merch, I’m so pleased you liked it. Unfortunately I can’t take credit for this as Mitra was the author but I agree she did a really great job here. We can all pick up something from the information she has shared to improve the quality of our camping experience. Thanks again.


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